Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Disruptive Leadership In Legal Education

Nicholas A. Mirkay (Hawaii) & Palma Joy Strand (Creighton), Disruptive Leadership in Legal Education:

Legal education is ripe for disruption because the legal profession and the law itself are ripe for disruption. In the last recession, demand for legal education dropped 40 percent, and only in the last year are we seeing increases in law school admissions. The recession illuminated an even bigger crisis for law and legal education—an increasing mismatch between the limited services that the law and lawyers provide and the vast and acute societal needs for legal services. A recent American Bar Association study estimated that 80 percent of the poor and those of moderate income lack meaningful access to our justice system and legal services.

Ample scholarship exists on how to restructure legal education to address this mismatch. However, this essay undertakes a new focus—the tough and potentially perilous road of attempting necessary change in a real-world law school setting. We impart our experiences as unwitting “disruptive leaders” prodding a small, private law school to meet the changing legal environment, and experiencing extreme blowback as result. We discuss characteristics of academia generally that contributed to this resistance—tenure, academic freedom, and the imperatives of university administration to raise funds and maintain tradition rather than respond innovatively to shifting economic and social dynamics. We also highlight characteristics of legal education that make disruptive leadership particularly unlikely to succeed: the ABA monopoly in legal regulation and the gendered nature of law and legal education.

This essay provides a narrative that will resonate with many in legal academia, as well as academia in general. The peer reviews we received also confirmed that this essay will jumpstart an important and necessary conversation on these issues. ...

Two years ago, both of us were full, tenured professors at the Creighton University School of Law. We sought to position the law school as a leader in responding to the shifting and uncertain landscape that currently characterizes law, the legal profession, and legal education. Because of institutional resistance to change, however, neither of us remains in our former positions. One of us is now a tenured Professor of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi Richardson School of Law; the other is still at Creighton and still a tenured Professor of Law, but no longer in the School of Law.

Legal Education | Permalink


Smart article. Thanks to the authors for their leadership and sharing their experiences.

Agree with Professor William Henderson that legal education faces an inflection point.

Agree with Dean Nick Allard that for non-elite (top 10) law schools, the failure to innovate and adapt to changing market conditions will likely lead to institutional ossification and then obsolescence as disruptors seize market share.

The unfolding narratives at Minnesota, Northwestern, and Vermont illuminate the financial sustainability challenges encountered by schools with excellent programs and reputations. Market forces currently cull (or have already culled) non-viable programs across the country. Creative destruction targets all.

Legal education must embrace digital, platform, and eventually AI technologies.

For law schools, the choice is adapt or disappear.

Posted by: Hilary Escajeda | Jan 17, 2019 7:05:12 AM